Longtime yoga teacher Richard Odom has kept his following and even gathered new students during the COVID-19 pandemic using teleconferencing. He no longer hosts physical classes but instead offers live audio classes five times a week for students around town and around the country.

“Last week we even had someone call in from Chile,” said Odom, who has taught classes in the Wood River Valley since the mid-1970s, long before it exploded in popularity.

Odom list of credentials runs long. He provided early instruction to actress and author Mariel Hemingway, tennis pro John McEnroe and local yogi Ryan Redman. Until March, he was teaching a total of about 75 students each day in 3 to 4 classes each week, at the Wood River Community YMCA and at IdaYoga.

When the coronavirus led to a shutdown of his classes, Tim Eagan, one of his regular students, found a way for him to continue.

“Two weeks ago, Tim and I tried out a call-in class and then we opened up to others,” Odom said. “This week I had 59 people call in for one class.”

For Odom and his students, the practice is particularly valuable amid the uncertainty of the pandemic.

“This COVID really throws you on your head and that’s also similar to what the yoga process does,” Odom said. “Your body becomes the teacher and the mind becomes the student.

“Our minds are always saying ‘I want’ or ‘I must,’ but we are unable to fulfill many of those desires right now. This virus is causing us to reflect.”

Odom said yoga provides an option to calm down and get grounded.

“Using the body in yoga is like taking a walk out in nature,” he said.

Odom said he plans to continue using teleconferencing, rather than Zoom video classes for the time being.

“It works because a lot of people are already used to hearing my voice,” Odom said. “If you are watching someone else, you are not participating as deeply in your own practice but comparing yourself to others.”

For now, he is offering the class for free. He is exploring a way to receive donations or payment through Venmo, Paypal or another online application.

Odom’s one-hour classes are available Monday-Friday at 12:15 p.m. For more information go to facebook.com/richard.odom.98.

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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